The Nigerian Judiciary and
by extension the Nigerian Bar Association has always been revered and regarded
with the utmost respect. Looking back at the time when Jurists such as Justice
Kayode Eso and legal titans such as Timi – The – Law practiced in this jurisdiction,
one can say those were the good old days.

However, currently things
are not so good and the tales of woe within the Bar and Bench can be traced to
the political class, who have invaded our honourable chambers with the poisoned
wine.  Of the 3 arms of government, the Judiciary
is the most reserved as our learned justices cannot so powerfully use the media
like their counterparts in the Legislature and the Executive. Moreso, the
Judiciary is guided by a code of ethics and the rule of law, one thing we can
debate is lacking in our political class who make up the Legislature and leadership
in the executive.

Many Nigerians complain
about the slow process of justice and sometimes the inability to get justice.
This is because the Executive made up of past and present Presidents and
Governors have bastardized the process with the intention of keeping the
Judiciary under their thumb. For instance, why have State Governors blatantly
refused to ensure the financial independence of the Judiciary but have been
satisfied to allow their Chief Judges come to them with begging bowls. No
State Judiciary can buy cars for their Judges without approaching the Governor,
this is an intentional whim of politicians and the Executive to silence the
voice of the people.

President Buhari who leads
the current Federal Government is no exception as since he entered power in
2015, his government has waged a war of control over the Judiciary. A war that
began with the invasion of the homes of various Justices, a media trial and no
convictions for lack of evidence. The most recent being the illegal suspension
of the Chief Justice Of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen and the rationale
behind the unlawful suspension is exhibited in the speech of His Excellency
where he stated and I quote –

“ It is no secret that this government
is dissastified with the alarming rate in which the Supreme Court of Nigeria under
the oversight of Justice Walter Onnoghen has serially set free, persons accused
of the most dire acts of corruption, often on mere technicalities”.

From the above it can be
seen that the President wants the Chief Justice of Nigeria, not only to give
judgments that are favourable to his government but for the CJN to meddle in
the trials before his court and most importantly to ignore the provisions of
the law and due process by ensuring a conviction by all means. An act which is
in fact an abuse of power. Certainly, one must wonder if with the imposition of
the acting Chief Justice, President Buhari may have found his man.

With this background, one
must salute the 20 Senior Advocates of Nigeria, who have risen to offer
themselves as champions and titans for the rule of law. For in their joint
statement, they have stated theirs is a cause to reform the Bar and Bench by
engaging with relevant stakeholders. Most especially the Nigerian Bar
Association, the body recognized to act on all things bordering on the welfare
of lawyers.

It is believed and hoped
that though a number of the 20 SANs did not support the current NBA President
in his elections, they have put aside all resentment from the loss and are now
willing to work with the NBA President to ensure proper reforms are put in
place, as to do otherwise would be to act like the politicians who have
continued to disguise self interest as national interest and buried the Rule Of
Law under the altar of political expediency.

Furthermore, it is hoped
that they will engage the Judicial Reform Committee, most recently Chaired by
the Learned Silk, Olisa Agbakoba SAN and the Regulation of Legal Profession
Committee chaired by Tony Idigbe SAN. Most importantly, well – meaning
advocates of reforms should key into the programmes of those committees.

Lastly, we must all work
together to remove politics from our judiciary.

Photo – Cross Section of Senior Advocates OF Nigeria
Photo Credit –